With the FIFA World Cup less than a month away, Brazil's Elite Military Police, known as BOPE, is promising to toughen its stance against fan violence. A supporter was killed at a Brazil league match on May 2.
Hooliganism and terrorism are serious threats that authorities are trying to prepare for. So are mass anti-government protests with the potential to turn violent.
"The BOPE is working ahead with an integrated operation with trained dogs and police tactical teams so if there's an attack or any kind of crisis with hostages, we can have a quick response," said Major Ivan Blais, who believes public ferries could be a possible target.
Brazil has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Sporting events have been historically dangerous:
- 253 supporters of Brazilian soccer clubs have been killed since 1988.
- 100 Brazilian league supporters assaulted their own players in April after poor performances on the pitch.
These threats are creating not only a security challenge, but also a public relations issue for Brazil's law enforcement, as authorities try to assure thousands of media — and even more tourists —that everything will be fine when the World Cup kicks off June 12 in Sao Paolo.
Tests of Brazilian security are already underway. Protesters began a wave of demonstrations around Brazil on Thursday, burning tires and blocking highways to draw attention to housing and education.
In Sao Paulo, the country's biggest city, demonstrators blocked two key roads into the city and hundreds protested near one of the stadiums built for soccer's premier tournament.
"Our goal is symbolic. We don't want to destroy or damage the stadium," said Guilherme Boulos, head of the Homeless Workers Movement, whose activists gathered at Itaquerao Stadium. "What we want is more rights for workers to have access to housing and to show the effects the Cup has brought to the poor."
The group claims many people have been forced out of their homes because of rising rents in the neighbourhood around the new stadium.
With files from The Associated Press